This story is by Sharri Hough and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
As the door closed behind him, Nick heard the words echo in his mind: You need to take some time to think. He would be there soon.
Waiting, watching the time go by. Like a melting glacier.
What was time anyway? Just something that people made up. An invention to keep things in order. You couldn’t touch it; it didn’t really exist. Except for clocks. What about clocks? Nick located the clock in the room, looking at it with a new sense of revelation. Clocks, digital and analog, measured out the time. Tick, tock.
Time is just shadows moving, long, to short, to long, then gone.
When would enough time have passed?
Days, weeks, months, years?
Shaking his head, he looked around the room. The light of afternoon shone through the small window, casting shadows everywhere. He closed his eyes and took a deep, calming breath. When he opened them, he began to examine the room’s contents. Kneeling, he picked up a small object from the floor.
Waiting. A melting glacier.
The light seemed to dim as he ran his hands over the object and a small smile touched his lips. He picked up another, closing his eyes for a moment. When he heard strange sounds from all around, his eyes flew open. A terrifying roar came from close behind. He spun around, and his heart jumped into his throat. He was in a jungle. The creatures that lived there were making frenzied noises, but suddenly grew deathly still.
It was there. The T-Rex. No farther away than a few car lengths. The other creatures began to flee in all directions. Desperate for a place to hide, Nick knew there was no way he could outrun the enormous animal.
The beast’s steps pounded, shaking the ground. Nick ran dodging, until at last, he found a crevice beneath a fallen tree. Squeezing inside, he prayed he hadn’t been seen. He waited for the giant lizard to pass by.
Suddenly, another roar came from a different direction. Poking his head out, Nick discovered another dinosaur, a triceratops, charging at the T-Rex. He watched, transfixed at the sight of the two huge creatures locked in battle. The ground shook and their screams filled the air. The triceratops charged over and over, trying to skewer the big meat-eater. The T-Rex leapt away and tried to sink its razor-sharp teeth into the back of the four-legged herd beast.
The two flung each other about, crashing into trees, tumbling to the ground. Nick couldn’t tear his eyes away from the fascinating scene, but was afraid to step too far out of his shelter. At last, the sounds of the skirmish faded away, only to be replaced by a shriek of victory. The T-Rex had emerged victorious. With mindless ferocity, the beast ripped apart his now unprotesting dinner.
Nick sighed to calm his pounding heart and closed his eyes again. When he opened them, he was back in the room with the light from the window still showing through the curtains. He was kneeling on the floor, still gripping the two objects that had originally caught his attention.
He felt relieved and then wondered how much time had passed. The clock stared at him defiantly, daring him to challenge the minimal change. Glancing at the objects he still held in his hands he dropped them to the floor where he had found them, then got to his feet.
Time. Waiting. Melting.
Fantasy, invisible, untouchable.
Save time, waste time. Freeze time.
The furnishings in the room were simple. A bed, a chest of drawers, a small table and lamp beside the bed, and a chair. There were shelves with books and other items. He walked over to investigate what was there. He picked up one book, then another before returning them. Reaching for a third and flipping it open, he heard the sounds of people crying for help. Explosions punctuated the voices.
Jerking around toward the noise, Nick ran down the alley in front of him. When he came to the end of the building, he looked up one side of the street and then the other. To his left was a strange sight. People were running away in all directions. Military tanks were headed directly for him, the barrels of their enormous guns aimed at the sky to his right.
Nick followed their aim and saw a man in a green costume flying through the air on a surfboard. Purple bursts of energy shot from the front, making holes in the buildings. Nick could hear him laughing as each shot hit its mark.
Nick leapt into the air, floating to the top of the building, cape flapping behind him. If he could just get behind the villain without being noticed, he could bring this destruction to an end. Peering over the edge of the rooftop, he made his way around until he was in the position he had wanted. The green evil-doer never saw it coming.
The crowd cheered and the soldiers saluted. He took his protesting captive to the ground and wrapped a light pole around him to hold him in place until the authorities could deal with him. Waving, he flew off, back to the alley. Once back in the room, he pushed the book away and turned toward the bed.
He walked over and sat on the edge. The clock seemed to laugh at him.
Time. Waiting. Drip. Drop.
He picked up an item that was on the small table and examined it, then looked at the window. Had the light changed? Would he ever feel its warmth again? He was stuck here. He sighed.
Unnoticed, planets swirled aimlessly around their stars, turning over and over as the galaxies spun in the universe.
Nick flopped back onto the bed and sighed, feeling the softness as he sunk into it, closing his eyes for just a moment.
He heard them calling for him.
His eyes opened and his hands were on the controls. The clear glass of his cockpit canopy showed all of the other starfighters lined up in the blackness of space, prepared for the fight. He responded that he was ready and turned his weapons and shields on to their full capacity. Nudging his engines, he followed the others down toward the shiny, blue planet.
The enemy ships rose up to meet them, the energy of their laser-beams splashing off his shields. He spun and dove, using all of his expertise and training to avoid destruction. An explosion here and there indicated the demise of an enemy ship, or one of his friends. Nick blocked it all out as he concentrated on his mission. Destroy the mother ship.
Racing against the underside of the enormous vessel, he launched his missiles at just the right moment. Now, to get away before the whole thing blew. After the blinding light of the explosion filled his eyes, cheers arose over his speakers. They’d done it. The galaxy was safe from tyranny once again.
Smiling, Nick turned over on the bed. The light had dimmed somewhat, at last indicating the passage of some time. He refused to look at the arrogant clock.
His eyes grew heavy. He must have drifted off, because when they opened again the room was blanketed in deep shadows.
He could hear the sound of doors opening and closing outside the room, then movement in the hall. Muffled voices outside the door; silence. Nick braced himself. Hewas coming in and there would be questions Nick would be required to answer. They had better be “satisfactory”.
There was an extra-long pause before the crack in the doorway came. His heart sped up a bit when the tall figure stepped through the open door. Nick imagined that it was a portal that came from some other place. A place where there was no time. No waiting. A small smile touched his mouth.
The light flipped on, chasing the shadows away. The tall figure entered the room, stopping at the side of the bed.
“Well, Nicholas James Bogart, have you been given enough time to think things through? What do you have to say for yourself this time?”
We are born, we live, we die.
Forever and a day.
James Bogart looked at his son, then around the room. His glance fell upon the plastic dinosaurs on the floor; the T-Rex’s mouth clamped on the leg of the triceratops. He noticed the latest edition of ‘Marvel Man’ flipped open on the bookshelf, the Green Glider had been foiled again.
When his gaze returned to his son, he saw the spaceship cradled in his arms.
What adventures had his son been on today?
Nick cleared his throat, his earnest eyes looking everywhere but at his father. “Well, I just wanted to see how the coffee maker worked. I told mom I was putting it back together…”
A small smile touched James Bogart’s lips.